Oberlin College will have to pay a baker $33 million after a jury ruled the school defamed the business by alleging it had a history of racism.
A Lorain County, Ohio, jury awarded Gibson's Bakery $22 million in punitive damages on Thursday, after awarding $11 million in compensatory damages last week, as reported in a press release from the Legal Insurrection Foundation. The college must also pay the baker's attorneys' fees, which could amount to millions.
The jury found the college and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo liable for defamation. The college was also found liable for infliction of intentional emotional distress and Raimondo was found liable for intentional interference of business relationships.
The history of the case goes back to 2016:
The case filed in 2017 stemmed from Oberlin and Raimondo’s conduct after a string of student protests outside the bakery where protesters called the owners racist.
Three black students were arrested in 2016 after one tried to use a fake ID and shoplifted from the bakery, according to the Chronicle-Telegram. The owner’s son, who is white, followed the students and got into a fight with them.
Soon after, students protested outside of the bakery to the extent where local police testified that they considered pulling in outside help.
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Oberlin stopped ordering from the bakery after the 2016 protests, but resumed business with Gibson’s in January 2017, according to the Chronicle-Telegram. When Gibson’s filed suit in November 2017, Oberlin quit doing business with the company for a second time.
The students pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges including attempted theft in 2017, reading statements into the record that said the son was justified in detaining the robber and that the events weren’t racially motivated.
The lawsuit said that Raimondo handed out fliers calling Gibson’s racist and spoke into a bullhorn at the protests. The suit also said other professors took part.
William A. Jacobson, professor at Cornell Law School and president of the Legal Insurrection Foundation, said the school tried to sacrifice the bakery on the "altar of political correctness."
"In efforts to appease the campus ‘social justice warfare mob,’ Oberlin College attempted to sacrifice this beloved fifth-generation family bakery, its owners and employees at the altar of political correctness," Jacobson said. "In doing so, they relied upon demonstrably false accusations, defaming and nearly destroying a small business."